University admissions statistics reveal that more students than ever before in Blighty have enrolled on courses in science and engineering this year. Unfortunately this progress has been achieved at a grim cost, as far larger numbers of young people have as usual chosen to study law, business, management, psychology - and computer science.
The figures released this week by admissions service UCAS show that no fewer than 477,277 applicants have now had a place confirmed at university or college this year, an overall increase of five per cent over 2008.
In particular, the number of students studying maths is up 7.6 per cent to 6,908; physics is up seven per cent to 3,559; biology up two per cent to 4,664; and mainstream engineering subjects generally saw increases of several per cent. However, the number of students doing chemistry was down by three per cent to 3,885.
The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), in charge of funding academic boffinry in these fields, was pleased to see increases in new talent.
"The UK is world leading in science and engineering research and it's great to see more students choosing to study subjects in these areas," said EPSRC boss-prof Dave Delpy. "It reflects the positive impact that science and engineering has on our society and we must encourage students to continue this tradition."
A poll conducted for the Young Scientist Centre indicated that science is now the most popular subject at school, too, and that an increased number of children plan on taking science and maths at A Level.
Plenty of grounds for rejoicing, then, for all those keen to see old Blighty excel in science and technology into the future.
But there was grim news today as well. According to the EPSRC and UCAS "More students than ever before" are now to commence "science and engineering related" studies. However, as is usual in British society, far more have chosen the comparatively easy, slick, bullshit-laden subjects seen as routes to personal success - or at least a paying job.
The most popular subject of all was law, with no fewer than 17,346 youngsters accepted - as many as maths and the three main sciences put together. No fewer than 21,315 will now study either Management or Business. A horrifying 15,327 are to read Psychology, and tens of thousands more young feet will set out down the roads to hell signposted "Design Studies", "English", "Sports Science" and "Combinations within Business and Admin Studies".
Journalism and Media Studies, while not yet attracting five-figure student bodies, surged worryingly - up by 15.7 and eight per cent to 2,675 and 5,141 respectively.
That's an awful lot of young lives thrown away.
Also way up high along with law, "design", business studies and psychology was another hotly-disputed subject. The fourth most popular degree course in the land this year, attracting a horde of 11,328 students (up by fully seven per cent), was Computer Science.
Whether that means another 11,000-odd pukka tech wizards to add to the ranks of the real engineers and scientists, or just a fresh legion of semi-skilled code monkeys with delusions of grandeur... that's a debate we'll leave for the comments. Keep it clean, and remember that the business-studies guys are the true enemy. ®